Who doesn’t love an ethical label that heroes basics ? THE M|N|ML is just that, an Australian designed and made, ethical clothing label creating affordable, luxe and trans-seasonal basics for people who want to be themselves. This gorgeous debut stall joined us at Brisbane for our Spring Summer Tour & we thought the announcement of our new debut fashion category for 2019 was the perfect time to share this interview with the design duo behind M|N|ML!
As the designers behind THE M|N|ML preach, thinking ethically when you choose what to wear is not a trend it’s the new order and it’s something we at Finders Keepers are so thrilled to see spreading. This minimal brand uses organic cotton and other sustainable materials as a basis to their designs – meaning you can feel good about less disposable fashion and more timeless pieces to last the distance. We took some time to chat to the Brisbane stallholders, Safa Itote, and Desta Cullen, about their journey, creative process and what a typical day entails for two ethically minded fashion designers.
How did you come to be a seller at Finders Keepers? Tell us about your journey so far and describe your label.
THE M|N|ML journey started at home growing up as the eldest two of four sisters who spent our early years traveling between the US, Belize and Australia. It’s a natural extension of us and our love of beautiful fabrics, good design, and values instilled by our parents – environmental awareness, social justice and a strong sense of ethics.
We’d always talked about working together and our mutual frustration around fast fashion drove us to create a range of organic cotton basics that can easily be dressed up or down. We love the creativity of sartorial pursuits but felt like we shouldn’t have to forsake comfort, style and ethics just to buy a t-shirt. We use GOTS certified fabrics and all of our styles are made ethically, whether under ECA accreditation at our factory in Sydney, or at WRAP and Fair Wear accredited factory partners offshore. We started selling through our online store in November 2016, with the odd market thrown in here and there. Things have gone from strength to strength since then; being selected to debut at the Finders Keepers Brisbane is definitely a highlight for us!
Talk us through a typical day in the life of THE M|N|ML. Do you work full time on your label or are their others on your team? Do you have a studio or do you work from home ?
One of the best things about working on the label is that there’s no ‘typical’ day for us. On any given day, we could be fulfilling orders (something we still get really excited about), working on branding and marketing, perfecting patterns and designs, liaising with our local factory and answering customer inquiries. We’ve recently also started working with a few online retailers and stores, which is a really nice way to collaborate with other like-minded businesses. We’re in different parts of Brisbane (Safa at our home studio in Wynnum and Desta in Annerley) and we work part-time on THE M|N|ML (for now) so we spend a lot of time texting, FaceTiming, Instagram DMing and calling each other for various things. We’re still juggling full-time jobs, new motherhood and various other responsibilities with the label’s needs, so it can be challenging but we really love it.
Tell us about your inspiration for creativity and process? Is there a Finders Keepers designer who you admire?
Our main creative inspiration originally was our mum, who has this alchemist’s touch for sewing; growing up she would whip up fantastical costumes and beautiful dresses for us and it was always so magical to watch these creations come to life. Day-to-day we’re inspired by travel, nature, music, art, culture, and memories from our childhood. These elements find their way into our design process quite organically, though we do have a series of Pinterest boards, screenshots, and stacks of old magazines like vogue, harpers and Russh that we refer to. Safa is really the creative force behind the designs though once she has an idea, the two of us workshop and refine until it’s something we both love and would be happy to wear.
Environment and sustainability are big influences in our design process. We are very mindful of the waste that is created by the fashion industry and so we endeavor to take back all of our offcuts from production in our Sydney factory in order to reuse and create new things from what would normally be cutting room waste. The process of making something new from a “scrap” of material is really stimulating on a creative level. Creating a style based on the shape of the fabric rather than cutting it to fit a certain design definitely opens the mind to a whole bunch of possibilities. the Finders Keepers patrons will be the first to see and buy some new styles created from our offcuts.
We are also trying to become more innovative in the way we make our patterns and styles in order to create less waste and offcuts. This in itself can be challenging, but the process adds to the care and creativity of our designs. There are so many amazing Brisbane creatives at this year’s the Finders Keepers but we really love Rene from Concrete Jellyfish’s amazingly colourful Australiana-inspired accessories and Amber from BAIIA luxe, sustainable and ethically-made swimwear.
What goals do you have for your business over the next five years? Where do we start?
We’ve got so many plans for the next few years! Our aim with THE M|N|ML is for us to grow and scale to the point where the two of us can be working full time on the business in the next couple of years. Everything we do is geared towards always finding the most ethical, best way of doing things and we want to work towards becoming a closed loop label in the next year or two. Longer term, we’d love to carry the ethos of THE M|N|ML into creating a marketplace full of curated minimal lifestyle products. We also really enjoy the process of collaborating with other businesses and have plans to work with other local creatives in the near future.